The making of a champion

The Union City Little League champion Marlins (standing from left) Josh Redding, coach George Cruz, Ryan Maguire, Ty Coney, coach John Jagello, Alvin Torres, Adam Ferrara, Derrick Jagello, coach Dennis Sigetti, (kneeling) George Cruz, Antonio Reyes, (laying down) Jeff schebell, Ryan (Kemo) Sutherland and Devin Conway. –CONTRIBUTED

The Union City Little League champion Marlins (standing from left) Josh Redding, coach George Cruz, Ryan Maguire, Ty Coney, coach John Jagello, Alvin Torres, Adam Ferrara, Derrick Jagello, coach Dennis Sigetti, (kneeling) George Cruz, Antonio Reyes, (laying down) Jeff schebell, Ryan (Kemo) Sutherland and Devin Conway. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — The Marlins of Union City Little League have been champions in the making.

Five of the team’s players were drafted to play at the major boys level in 2012 and finished 2-14 in their first season. In 2014, the team improved across the board and skyrocketed to a 21-1 finish that included a regular season title, postseason tournament sweep and a town championship.

“I told them that if you stay together, you’re gonna be special,” Marlins manager Dennis Sigetti said.

Sigetti was right. Joined by assistant coaches George Cruz, John Jagello and Pete Sutherland, the Marlins and their staff proved that staying the course pays dividends.

After capturing the regular season at Union City, the Marlins earned the No. 1 seed in the postseason tournament and got off to a hot start on June 8 against the Pirates.

The Marlins won 10-0 in a shortened game. Derrick Jagello struck out 11 for the Marlins and added a homer.

Adam Ferrara (two triples), Ryan Maguire, Jeff Schebell and Ryan Sutherland had key hits in the Marlins’ win.

In the winner’s bracket final, the No. 2-seeded Braves gave the Fish all they could handle. The Marlins beat the Braves, 3-2, in a come-from-behind effort.

The Braves scored twice in the third on a Joel Alexander double. Alexander also pitched well.

Georgie Cruz came on in relief to shutdown the Braves with eight strikeouts over the final three innings. The Marlins scored three times in the fourth.

Derrick Jagello smashed a two-run homer. Josh Redding singled home Cruz, who tripled earlier in the inning.

The Braves held off elimination with a win over the Diamondbacks to setup a rematch against the Marlins on June 15.

Once again, the Braves scored first. This time Alexander singled home Mark Norfri for the game’s first run.

The Marlins scored twice in the third on defensive miscues and tacked on two in the fourth. Ferrara scored on an Alvin Torres single, then Schebell plated Torres on a sac fly.

Cruz struck out 11 en route to the victory against the Braves’ Ryan McCarthy, who also pitched well.

Sigetti said the Braves were a formidable opponent throughout the season.

“We played them five times and they were toughest team,” Sigetti said.  “They were very scrappy and kept all the games close. We just grinded it out when we had close games.”

In summary, the Marlins put it all together in 2014.

“The pitching, scoring and defense has been tremendous,” Sigetti said.  “In my eight years this has been the best team I’ve coached, and that’s no disrespect to my other teams. This team got along and acted like friends. When one guy was down, the others picked them up.”

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